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Change Your Focus – Change Your Life

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On the Home page of my website, FocusWithMarlene.com, I have the words:

“Your focus defines who you are and who you can become.”

What you focus on every day has an enormous influence on your life.

A negative focus looks only at everything that isn’t working without considering what is working. You soon develop a pattern of constantly finding fault, blaming, and being a victim.

As you reflect on your life – the decisions you have made, the conflicts you’ve struggled with, and the other obstacles that make up life in general – do you see a typical pattern of where your focus has been?

Is that focus benefiting you or not?

“What can I do?”

There are times when we are required to do whatever is necessary in the moment until we can mobilize our efforts and ask ourselves, “What do I need to do to begin again?”

Here is a personal story of a time when I needed to ask that question – “What can I do?”

While it might not define your circumstances, there is an important takeaway here that can be applied to any situation.

My husband and I had just moved into a new home we had built and were unpacking and finding a place to put things. The vertebra in my lower back had been gradually deteriorating, putting pressure on a sciatic nerve.

Without warning, it could trigger a spasm in my left leg, culminating in a leg cramp that locked my leg in a rigid position. Once locked, I was unable to move until it had run its course. With enough prior warning, I could alter the outcome of the spasm.

If I recognized the beginning of that muscular contraction, I could push my foot down hard on the floor and break the cramping cycle.

Even when asleep, there was a part of my brain on constant alert for the beginning of such a spasm. If I jumped out of bed quick enough, I could stop the process.

If I didn’t catch it in time, I would have to endure the excruciating pain until the affected nerves and muscles released me from their grip.

Lifting and bending aggravated my lower back even more. Unpacking boxes was now impossible.

I had to wait a week before I could see my orthopedic surgeon. Not being able to finish unpacking was frustrating. But what could I do in the interim? Reading books or looking at magazines would be short-lived and trivial pursuits were not for me. I needed to be doing something constructive.

It was then that I heard that small internal voice remind me, as it had so often in the past, “Focus on what you can do and forget about what you can’t do.”

Focus on what you can do – not what you can’t!

But what could I do? Suddenly I remembered all the cooking magazines I had collected over the years, full of great recipes and cooking tips, that I had brought with me to my new home. I had been waiting for a time when I could go through the magazines, select the recipes I wanted and throw the rest away. I had been too busy until now. Now, I realized, was the perfect time to complete that task.

Before I went in for my scheduled back surgery, I went through all those magazines that had been languishing in boxes, placed the saved recipes in binders and threw the rest away. I still have and use those recipes and cooking lessons.

The takeaway

No matter what the situation, difficulty, or limitation, there is always something of merit or importance we can focus on.

Consider the following ways you can change your focus and your life from one that is unsuccessful to one that is achieving.

These are basic life tools that anyone can acquire. As you reflect on each of them, think about your current habits. Which ones are working? Which ones are not?

Habits can be replaced.


10 Ways to change your focus

1. Replace negative thinking.

With negative thinking comes constant irritability and annoyance. When things go wrong, we make it worse by grumbling about how bad everything is and what we have to put up with. Negative thinking results in actions reflecting a negative approach to everything.

Recognize and replace negative thinking with a constructive way of thinking that considers the pros and cons of various options.

2. Don’t let emotions hold you hostage.

Emotions are important. They give us information about potential danger. They warn us to be careful, to think twice, etc. They also help us experience joy, satisfaction, and contentment.

Pay attention to what your emotions are telling you. If you have a negative outlook on everything, your emotions will reflect that and you will experience more anger, resentment, bitterness,  and hatred.

Our typical way of thinking will trigger emotions that can hold us hostage. We can temper those first emotional responses with practical thinking.

3. Stop your internal critic.

An internal critic is like a recording that constantly repeats how bad we are while listing all our failures. It blocks anything positive.

If you recognize such an ongoing internal dialogue, imagine holding a remote that controls your critic’s voice. Push the stop button. Then replace it with affirming statements.

4. Replace bad habits.

To replace bad habits you must first become aware of them. Can you define them?

This includes habits of thinking and associated beliefs which are formed early in life and continue to influence how we react to the world today. When recognized, they can be replaced.

If we remain focused on everything negative, we are rejecting the qualities of possibilities, resilience, and determination.

When we understand that we can change non-productive, negative habits, we will develop the confidence to replace them.

5. Problem-solve.

Before you can solve a problem, it needs to be distinguished from the symptoms it creates. Symptoms tell us there is a problem.

When we properly identify the underlying cause of the problem, that knowledge can help us find the solutions we need.

6. Communicate effectively.

Communication is more than just conversation or general talking. It is knowing how to ask for what you want, listening attentively, and giving feedback to clarify intent.

Without good communication skills, your relationships will suffer, and conflicts will escalate.

7. Adjust your focus – your focus defines who you are.

What you focus on you will become because that is where you spend your time, your energy and thinking. It is where you hold your values and live them. It clarifies how you want to live and how to make that happen.

Adjusting your focus frees you to laugh and enjoy life.

Accept all of you – both your strengths and weaknesses.

8. Practice forgiveness.

Forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves. Without it, resentment becomes a toxin that eats you up. Forgiveness does not mean we condone, deny, or minimize what happened or that reconciliation will happen.

Forgiveness is letting go. It is for you.

9. Develop an “I can” mindset.

Can you see yourself as competent and capable? Do old habits of thinking keep you from believing in yourself?

Acknowledge, appreciate, and celebrate the talents you were given that allow you to learn, grow and accomplish.

With an “I can” attitude, we are able to become resilient, to persevere, and to gain confidence.

10. Make God the cornerstone of your life.

Is there a God? Many people would say there might be a spiritual realm but not necessarily attribute it to a God. And yet, throughout history we are told stories about a God who cares for us and loves us.

From Genesis to Revelation in the Bible, we are able to read about God. Often we only focus on what we are not supposed to do. Yet when we fully understand the ramifications of doing them, we realize they, like the 10 commandments, are meant for our good – not to make life more miserable.

Science teaches there is a consequence of some kind to every action we take. Is there a God? Oh, I think so! As a Christian, I have experienced God’s love and peace and strength and hope for the future.

I encourage you to get a Bible, start reading, go to church, and pray.

Your challenge

After reviewing the life-adjusting skills mentioned above, pick one to work on for a week or two.

Then choose another that can make a difference in your life. Work with it, incorporate it into your life, and then choose another.

It might feel challenging at first, but once you have experienced the benefits of a positive new habit, you will be excited to keep going.

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